When I was much younger, the only decent wine shop in Hawaii was R. Field in Ward Centre and most of the selections at the local supermarkets were pretty abysmal. Fast forward 20 years and Hawaii’s wine retail scene has become infinitely better with many decent wine shops and wine bars – even the new Safeway on Kapahulu Ave. has a huge (slightly overpriced) wine section. I have been to just about all but I think one of these wine establishments on Oahu and my favorite place so far is The People’s Wine Shop on S. King St, just past the vacuum specialist shop on the corner of Pensacola and S. King St. (near Kaiser) in the King Street Apartment Hotel (ample parking on the street and in the back). As soon as you see the vacuum shop, you have to slow down because there is no awning displaying the shop’s name but there is there is a simple bright neon sign that let’s you know where the shop is.
If any of you are familiar at all with Berkeley, California, The People’s Wine Shop reminds me a bit of Vintage Berkeley (around the corner from Chez Panisse) because of the small size, personalized service and interesting selections. But The People’s Wine Shop has more of a welcoming feeling and I wonder if that has to do with the fact that it’s painted a warmer color or whether there is a lot of aloha spirit there.
I first met Andre at a trade wine tasting event at the Hilton sometime late last year and although we didn’t really talk to each other, I recognized him because we were often at the same tables tasting wines. It wasn’t until I went to his shop that I realized that he was the owner! I knew I’d like his shop because we must have had similar tastes to be at the same vendors.
The store, which opened in 2006, is run by Andre and Susan (who are always there with a smile) and his Friday and Saturday night free tastings are becoming very popular with local wine lovers. He features a different winery/producer/supplier every week and gives a discount on the featured wine as well. I love that he has harder to find wines from all over the world and with a really great Spanish and Italian section and best of all, the wines he brings in won’t break your bank! Andre stocks more premium “collector” wines as well but he prides himself on making wines approachable to everyone. I love the anti-snob quality there and because they’re so warm and friendly, they already have a big following of regular customers. I have run into people I know there and nearly everyone who comes on tasting nights seem to be known by name. Recently when I stopped by, he was tasting Mondavi wines to pay tribute to Robert Mondavi, shortly after his passing and that definitely touched me since I feel so connected to that place.
I wished this shop was around when I got married because it would’ve been great to purchase wine from him but alas, I bought it from another shop who barely gave me a smile. Whether you are a wine geek or wine novice, Andre’s shop is a great stop to buy some interesting wines in Hawaii.
**If you are a tourist and have a rental car, this shop is only about 4 miles away – which should take about 20 minutes (depending on traffic) from most Waikiki hotels.
**UPDATE: This store has closed its doors.** 😦